Sugar addiction is real. Once we get a taste for it, we crave it and can’t seem to get enough of it.
In order to sell more products, sugar is added to everything, from infant formula to cereal and peanut butter.
There’s a physiological explanation for this trend: sugar increases dopamine (the pleasure hormone) levels in the brain. Whether it’s a conscious decision or not, we naturally want to eat foods that make us feel good.
On Sugar and Diet
The first Dietary Guidelines published by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1980 warned against too much sugar. However, the emphasis of a balanced diet rested on complex carbohydrates while healthy fats from foods like seeds and nuts were minimized.
These Guidelines also said (sit down, you’re not going to believe this):
“Contrary to widespread opinion, too much sugar in your diet does not seem to cause diabetes. The most common type of diabetes is seen in obese adults, and avoiding sugar, without correcting the overweight, will not solve the problem.” (1).
It may seem obvious to health-conscious people that this statement is completely off. As we’ve seen time and again, foods that appear on the dietary guidelines don’t always get there because they’re healthy, a lot of it has to do with marketing and financial incentive.
What Causes Obesity? Take A Guess.
One obesity expert at the University of California-San Francisco went so far as to declare “sugar is a poison” (2).
People rely on the government and the vast resources at its disposal to explore and discover what’s best for everyone’s health. That’s a tremendous responsibility removed from our shoulders and placed on the back of politicians who struggle with their own health and weight.
The Guidelines have been revised over the years to reflect more current research. They now recommend that added sugar comprise less than ten percent of our daily diet.
They still don’t have it quite right yet—on several counts. Here are a few examples.
The Guidelines recommend that a healthy eating pattern includes fat-free or low-fat dairy, fortified soy, and “oils” (3).
As people who pay attention to this sort of thing know, fat-free and low-fat dairy products are NOT part of a healthy diet—you’re much better off using whole grass-fed milk if you consume dairy, with studies from all over the world showing that there is no correlation between drinking skim/low-fat versus whole milk and the risk for disease (4).
On the contrary, the fat in whole milk increases the bioavailability of its nutrients (5). On the whole (pun intended), human dairy intake should be restricted: it’s difficult to digest; can contribute to heart disease and cancer; its calcium content isn’t as bioavailable for human bone health as we’d like; and what the cows eat, you eat, which isn’t necessarily a good thing given the hormones, antibiotics, and grains they’re fed.
Arguably, unsweetened organic cultured and fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir are much more beneficial options than the classic glass of milk, but they aren’t necessary to your health.
As for fortified soy, there are a variety of reasons it’s not a great dietary choice—here are a few:
- “Fortified” means synthetic vitamins and minerals are added to the product. The body doesn’t very much like synthetics and doesn’t use them the same way as elemental nutrients from food.
- Commercially available soy “milk” also contains sugar, salt, and carrageenan gum, which many people cannot tolerate (6).
- Many people are allergic to soy.
- The vast majority of soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified and treated with toxic chemicals.
The current Dietary Guidelines promote oils as part of a healthy diet but they don’t specify which ones. Vegetable oils such as canola, corn, and soybean oils are not oils of choice because much of them are trans fat (the kind the Guidelines warn against)—coconut, olive, and sesame oils are much healthier options.
So much for the credibility of the Dietary Guidelines!
Sugar Addiction Paradox
U.S. government policy for the last five decades has included substantial subsidies to sugar and corn farmers.
Corn is the source of the manufactured high-fructose corn syrup, a toxic sweet by-product, that can be found extensively in processed foods. By way of this policy, the cost of refined sugars is substantially reduced, making them cheap enough to add to so many different foods and beverages.
Therein lies the paradox: while we are warned upfront to keep the consumption of added sugars to a minimum, Congress keeps paying for their production and unnecessary inclusion in our food.